Waited too long? Got those Christmas-shopping quivers? A quick trip down Academy Road could help you with everyone on your list -- all ages and sexes. The shopkeepers are fun and informed because they own the joints. Plus, you don't have to fight the lineups in the big-box stores.
Bath & Kitchen Accessories,
562 Academy Rd., 204-489-9282
LARRY Jensen at Michael Rodent (translation Mickey Mouse) is a grown-up kid whose shop surrounds him with collectibles springing from Disney characters, such as Mickey and Minnie, to superheroes and movie stars. But now, there are also modern cult images such as Grumpy Cat, a real kitty with an attitude whose ugly mug went viral. Jensen, now in his 14th Christmas at the shop, sports the famous Grumpy Cat shirt: "Your gift is in the litter box."
The shop, with a three-metre giant outdoor blow-up of Mickey Mouse, carries decorative and useful items for your home plus T-shirts, cushions, teapots, lunch kits with your favourite characters and all sorts of stuff for the bathroom.
"The Internet has started to take over from comics," says Jensen, but superheroes and movie stars still rule. "The cutest thing in my shop right now for kids is the Tinkerbell turtle music box with a shell that pops open playing Don't Worry Be Happy. This year, a theatre production has given a crazy prop surprising new popularity. The famous lamp from A Christmas Story -- one stockinged leg with a high-heeled shoe as the base -- is flying out the door. "The Manitoba Theatre Centre is doing it as a play, so it's giving us extra push," explains Jensen. If you prefer rock memorabilia, there's also the Blue Hawaii version of the Elvis Mr. Potato Head, complete with blue suit, yellow flower lei and ukulele. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. today and 11 to suppertime (or when people leave) Monday and Tuesday. "We don't shut the doors on anybody."
Joan's Accessories and More,
485 Academy Rd., 204-415-7508
JOAN Druxman sells funky gifts to get you in tight with the adults in your life. For the lady with flair, she has a baby-pink leather and rhinestone steering-wheel cover. Then there's four-packs of "diamond" valve caps, bling car lighters and hostess gifts such as BBQ lighters studded with rhinestones.
"I always choose Swarovski crystals because you can't beat them for fire," says the owner. She's also proud of her rocket-shaped black, chrome-lined booze flasks ($55). "These flasks have chrome inside and two cups hidden up here in the lid -- and have made it into many a Jets game and golf courses all over town."
She also has wrap-around computer/reading glasses as well as combo wallets with cellphone cases to strap across your chest. "Either way, you're always hands-free."
In the novelties area, Druxman shows a series of gift soaps, the least naughty reading "Walk of Shame: Because Sometimes Integrity Fails You." Her line of Safe Socks for men has a secret pocket for a condom. Other novelties include chandelier earrings ($150-$250). "I call them the Academy Awards night earrings."
552 Academy Rd., 204-489-0580
DUCK through the door and you'll find a world you may not have known existed. Former pharmacist Joe Krolik is far more than a comic-book dealer -- and the kids streaming in and out of the place range from eight to 88. "I started doing this 37 years ago and a hobby grew into a business."
Shelves forming narrow aisles go up to the rafters, full of comic books, theme collectibles, statues and strange merchandise. Some of his superhero statues are smokin'. Witness The Kiss -- an erotic embrace between Superman and Wonder Woman up in the clouds. Once it was out of the box, a guy shopping in the store in his 30s asked, "Wow. How much is THAT?" Well, it's $329.95, fella, and you can put it on your fireplace.
Anime action figures are hot, and names like Kai and Bishoujo are "really big sellers." Then there are items for little people, such as the My Little Pony backpacks. Tucked behind the cash register is the games section -- with a selection that goes quite a way beyond Monopoly and Battleship. Topping the puzzles section is Westeros, the fictional world from TV show Game of Thrones. Your kid won't come up from the rec room for a week.
Dive behind the games sections and you'll find T-shirt racks so loaded, they threaten to fall over.
"Most popular items this year are anything related to Dr. Who," smiles Krolik as more people whoosh through the door. "We have Dr. Who everything -- watches, squeeze balls, T-shirts, you name it."
And everybody with a sentimental heart loves an electric train for Christmas. The Polar Bear Express freight and passenger train, the Harry Hogwart Express and best of all, the Peanuts Christmas Train, are on display in the middle aisle and run between $550 to $600. They don't come cheap but they're worth it, especially after the kids go to bed and you get them to yourself.
443 Academy Rd., 204-488-1891
MOULé'S Christmas 2013 campaign looks like an Ellen show set! This year the Gorenstein family business has reminders such as "Love One Another" in aqua-blue writing on their front window. Because the world is tense this year, their warm attitude beckons the weary shopper. For kids, there's an assortment of collectibles such as Ugly Dolls.
"I think they look like blobs," says assistant manager Raymond Butler, cuddling the aqua, amoeba-shaped character with two front teeth.
Your friends are older than this? Hit the back of the first floor of the store for the funkiest gifts. If you don't want to hurt the animals, check out the non-leather assortment of vegan belts. Buying for a grinch? The I Hate Everything book of pet peeves will fill that bill. Vintage aviator hats with fur and flaps look wild with aviator glasses. There's Bjorn Borg underwear, unisex Happy Socks with large polka dots (you'll be the talk of the Christmas party), and impudent books with titles like Crap Dates: Disastrous Encounters from Single Life. Know someone who hates their boring job? There's the Really Bored@Work doodle book to get you fired, as well as Bongology to get you wired... then fired.
Maureen Scurfield is a Christmas elf who still loves shopping for gifts for friends and family. She tolerates the Grinch and he hates her right back.